Here's a simple, but often overlooked, aspect of parenting young teens. (Part 2 of 4)
Any parent of a teenager has been through this:
“Nathan, it’s time to go to school.”
“Nathan, it’s time to go to school.” (a little louder)
“It’s time to go to school!” (He didn’t even have his ear buds in.)
“Oh, okay… why didn’t you tell me.”
Although your teenager seems, at times, to have a hearing impairment, there are things that you, as a parent, can do to increase the possibility that they will be able to hear you.
The first thing you can do is to talk with them like they’re adults.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, Parenting from the Periphery, on this topic:
In addition to encouraging your children to have healthy mentors, another thing we parents need to do is learn how to speak with our children differently when they enter the teen years.
How you speak with your teenager has a huge impact on how your teenager responds to you. This is an area where parents really struggle.
After all, for the first ten years of the child’s life, you have been speaking with your child like this:
“Alex, it’s time to go to school now. Get up. I have breakfast on the kitchen table for you. Come downstairs right away.”
“Okay, kids, we’ll be going to Colorado for Spring Break. Since we have to drive to Tahoe by noon, we’ll need to leave by 8:00 a.m. Be ready to go.”
“Gabriella, that was not a nice thing to do. You share with your friend!”
There’s nothing wrong with talking with young children like this. In fact, parents have a responsibility to care for their kids, set boundaries for them, discipline them, and get them to the places they need to go.
The problem arises, however, when your child enters the stage that we’ve been talking about in this book. First of all, as stated in the last chapter, your child can barely hear your voice, so anything you say may not even register in the kid’s conscious mind. Secondly, the budding adult doesn’t want to be told what to do.
Think about it. How often do you go up to a colleague at work and say, “Diego, we’re going out to lunch in ten minutes. You can either have a hamburger or some pasta, but not both. Be ready to leave, so I don’t have to wait for you.”
Instead, your conversation probably goes more like this:
“Hey, Diego. Do you want to go out for lunch today? What do you feel like eating? How about trying that new burger place in the Atrium? Would leaving in ten minutes work for you?”
Notice the big difference between those two conversations. Adults tell kids what to do but ask other adults to participate in the decision making.
If you learn just one thing from this book, what I’m talking about here has the potential to radically transform the effectiveness of your relating with your adolescent child.
Here's the secret:
If you speak with your teen like he is an adult, you might be surprised to find he answers you like an adult. When you do this, you communicate respect. All people like respect. No one wants to feel "less than." Think about that next time you are tempted to dress down your teen for something you think he did wrong.
If you speak with your teen as an adult, it can have a ripple effect in your other communications and in the overall atmosphere in the home. When the atmosphere is one of mutual respect and not continual tension, the opportunity for families to be, on the whole, more effective in their interactions outside the home grows.
And yes, this is part of making our world – on the whole – a much better, more harmonious, place to live. It benefits all.
There's another way to increase the odds of your teen communicating with you during the challenging years of early adolescence. It depends upon how you react to him or her. That's what we'll explore in the next post.
Read the first post of this series here: What's the Most Important Job for Your Teen?